Blog by Steve Laug
I have become a fan of older LHS pipes and restored quite a few of them lately. I am always on the lookout for different LHS lines that I have not seen. Recently I picked up this LHS Sulgrave from a fellow on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum for $15. It is a line that I had not heard of before. He described it as a lightly smoked briar pipe. When I saw it I wanted it as it was my kind of shape. Never sure what to call this shape – bent banker, squat apple – not sure but I like it. He gave the following description in the sale listing. The shank is stamped Purex Sulgrave arched over LHS in a Diamond on the left side. The stem has two light coloured dots on the left side. The pipe is 5 1/8 inches long from the bottom of bowl to end of bit. The bowl chamber diameter is 7/8 inch and bowl depth is 1 1/4 inch. There is light caking in bowl. There is light tooth wear on end of the stem near the button. It has normal wear and tear (dings, oxidation and scratches) for an estate pipe. Nice overall shape and condition. Here are the photos that he included when I emailed him for details.
When the pipe arrived I was not disappointed. The shape was perfect. The description was accurate and the only variation that I could see was that the stamping did not include PUREX on the shank. Not a big deal in my book. The bowl was unevenly caked and appeared to have been reamed. The back side of the bowl had a thicker portion of cake that gave the inside wall on the back side an uneven and out of round look. I was pretty certain that with a good reaming and a light sanding the rim would look better. The stem was over bent and there was a slight crease on the underside of the bend. There was a coat of wax or some kind of coating on the stem and bowl. The stem was oxidized. In the first photo below you can see slight imperfection in the vulcanite stem. I have circled it to highlight it in the photo below. It is not a hole or worn spot, it is actually a thread of cord in the rubber. Its presence gives some idea of the date of manufacture as recycled rubber was used in WWII pipes.
The stem also had a lot of tooth dents and chatter along both top and bottom with some very deep marks on both. I tried to capture them in the next two close-up photos but they are still not very clear. The odd thing was that the dents went up the stem over an inch. The slot in the button was not centred and appeared to have left the factory that way. The dents were deep enough that I was concerned regarding the thinness of the stem surface over the airway. The mortise and airway in the shank were dirty and the end of the mortise was chipped away. It looked as if there had originally been a stinger in the tenon but it was no longer with the pipe.
I also have included the next close-up photo of the rim and the bowl interior to show the cake that gave the bowl an out of round appearance. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer using the largest cutting head. I took the cake back to bare wood to even out the inner edge of the bowl. I wanted to get rid of the cake so that I could smooth out the edge.
I wiped down the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the tars and the wax coat on the briar. With them removed the outer edge of the bowl showed damage as well. The bowl had been knocked about on the front edge particularly. The grain on this pipe was lovely.
I cleaned out the shank and the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the grime inside. It took quite a few of both to clean out the shank but finally they came out clean. I heated the stem with a heat gun to try and lift some of the dents to the surface and to also take out some of the bend. I also wanted to smooth out the sharpness of the bend on the bottom side.
I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. The heat had raised most of the dents significantly. The ones that were left in the stem needed to be sanded out and then filled to take care of them. I used 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface. I also worked on the curve on the underside of the stem to make it less sharp looking.
The dents in the stem needed to be filled to bring the surface back to smooth flowing condition. I used a black super glue to fill the surface and set the stem aside to dry for several hours. Once dry, I sanded the fills with 220 grit sandpaper and then used a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to feather them into the surface of the stem.
I used a needle file to clean up and sharpen the edge of the button and give it more definition. I sanded the sharp edge with sandpaper and then sanded it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads and then let it dry after sanding with a 12,000 grit pad.
I buffed the pipe with White Diamond and Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish and remove the slight remnants of oxidation that had come to the surface. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean flannel buffing pad. I brought it back to the table and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below.